Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental disorder that involves dramatic changes in mood, energy, and activity levels.
Neuraxpharm provides medication alternatives for bipolar disorder and once your doctor has determined your specific needs, they can prescribe the product that best adapts to your needs and condition.
Find out about the different types of bipolar disorder, how they can be managed, and ongoing research into the condition.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition, formerly known as manic depression, that affects mood. It is characterised by extreme shifts in mood, from ‘manic’ episodes to depression, that affect the ability to concentrate and carry out everyday tasks. It is a lifelong condition; however, with ongoing treatment and interventions, people with bipolar disorder can live a productive, healthy life.
There are three types of bipolar disorder which all involve definite extreme changes in mood but have different levels of severity.
The condition is characterised by manic episodes that involve extremely elated, irritable, or energised behaviour and depressive episodes that involve sadness, indifference, or feelings of hopelessness. Less severe manic periods are known as ‘hypomanic episodes’. During these periods a person usually feels fine, but friends or family members notice changes in mood or activity levels.
People can experience both manic and depressive episodes at the same time (for example, feeling energised but sad and empty). This is known as an episode of mixed features.
Sometimes, people experience some symptoms of bipolar disorder but do not fit into any of the three types above; they are said to have other specified and unspecified bipolar or related disorders.
Around 2.4% of the population is affected globally – about 46 million people. Of these, 52% are female and 48% are male. However, the prevalence of bipolar disorder varies across the world from 0.3% to 1.2% by country.
In Europe, research has indicated that around 1% of the population (one in 100 people) are likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder in their lives. It can occur at any age and affects men and women from all backgrounds.,
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary from person to person, but they typically involve episodes of mania and episodes of depression.
Bipolar disorder is characterised by periods of extreme and intense mood that are not typical and often not recognised by the person experiencing them. They can affect sleep, energy, and activity and can last for several days or weeks, making it difficult to lead a functional life.
Manic episodes may include:
Depressive episodes may include:
Recent research shows that identifying the stages of bipolar disorder is not a simple task. Most commonly, the stages are based on the occurrence and recurrence of mood episodes, which suggest a worsening of symptoms.
However, recurrence of symptoms may not reflect the development of the illness itself, but may be a consequence of ineffective treatment
Bipolar disorder can occur at any age, although it is typically first seen from the late teens to the mid-20s. Symptoms can vary from person to person, but it is important to recognise severe mood swings. If a person is experiencing at least three symptoms of mania and having depressive episodes that prevent them from undertaking everyday activities, it is important that they speak to a doctor. Addressing these symptoms early on can prevent the episodes getting worse.
Bipolar disorder can vary from person to person, and there are many different causes. The long-term outlook for people with the condition also varies between individuals.
There is not thought to be one single cause of bipolar disorder. It is likely that there are a number of risk factors, which interact to produce the abnormal functioning of brain circuits that causes the symptoms. These include:
Men, women, and children from all backgrounds can get bipolar disorder at any time in their lives, although it rarely develops after the age of 40.
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition; although the symptoms can come and go, it requires ongoing treatment and does not go away on its own.
A study of the mortality (death) risk in mental disorders found that people with bipolar disorder, among other conditions, had an increased risk of mortality compared with the general population.
However, the right long-term, ongoing treatment can help control symptoms and enable people with bipolar disorder to live a long and healthy life.
The earlier that bipolar disorder is diagnosed and a treatment plan created, the less likely it is that the condition will develop further.
Bipolar disorder is currently diagnosed by looking at a person’s history and symptoms, rather than with brain imaging or other diagnostic tests. People with bipolar disorder are more likely to seek help when they are depressed than when they’re manic or hypomanic, but it is important to talk to a doctor if ongoing, recurring symptoms of either state are noticed. The doctor can complete a physical examination and order medical tests to rule out other conditions.
If necessary, a mental health professional will conduct a mental health evaluation that will look at symptoms, lifetime history, experiences, and often family history. Sometimes medications and other illnesses, such as steroid treatment or a thyroid problem, can cause symptoms similar to those of bipolar disorder, so doctors may also evaluate these other unrelated illnesses or medications while they consider the diagnosis.
There are no specific medical tests to establish a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. However, a mental health specialist will ask questions about symptoms, feelings and emotions. To support their clinical assessment, they will use questionnaires such as the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) to check whether patients might have the disorder, the Clinical Global Impressions-Bipolar Version (CGI-BP) scale that can be used to assess the severity of the illness, the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) to assess the severity of manic states, and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) to assess severity of, and change in, depressive symptoms.
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness that can come and go over time. Long-term continuous treatment can help to delay, prevent, or manage the severity of acute mania or acute depressive episodes and any lingering symptoms that may occur between these episodes. It is also important for people experiencing hypomania to undergo treatment to limit the development of severe mania or depression.
An effective treatment plan often includes a combination of medication and talking therapy. Studies show that appropriate treatment for the times between episodes (known as the maintenance phase) should be considered when selecting treatment for the acute phases of bipolar disorder, to ensure that the acute phases are fully managed.
It’s not possible to prevent bipolar disorder but getting a diagnosis and treatment as soon as symptoms are identified can help prevent the condition from getting worse.
People who have already been diagnosed can prevent minor symptoms from becoming acute episodes by:
Studies into causes, risk factors, and treatment of bipolar disorder are broad and numerous.
In particular, scientists are working to identify any genes that may be involved in causing the disorder. While bipolar disorder is known to be more common in people who have a first-degree relative with the condition, researchers are still identifying what the relevant genes are and how they work together. A global team of researchers has recently identified 30 areas of the human genome where variations in the genetic code can increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder.
Researchers are also looking closely at the composition of the gut microbiota (the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria and other microorganisms that live in the intestine) and its relationship to brain function in people with bipolar disorders. Studies have found that the composition of the gut microbiota may be altered for these people.
It is hoped that continued research into these areas will lead to the development of new, more effective, and better-targeted treatments.
Research is also ongoing into the best treatments for people with bipolar disorder. This includes studies to assess the effectiveness of drug and non-drug therapies for treating acute manic or depressive symptoms and preventing relapse in adults with the disorder, and studies to determine whether intensive psychotherapeutic intervention at the earliest stages of bipolar disorder can prevent or limit its full-blown onset.